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Are we suffering for Jesus Christ?

So many people ask “Why do Christian’s suffer?”

I am afraid I have to ask instead, “Why are Christians NOT suffering for the Lord Jesus Christ these days?”

It seems as though we are seeing times of great reversal of thought. For instance, false teachings in the church of today are saying that if we give 100 fold we will receive back, 300 fold, 600 fold, 1000 fold, etc. While it is true that the Christian will receive blessings, and it is not wrong to want the rewards, it is not to be our focus. The Bible tells us we will suffer for Christ, but this makes us uncomfortable so we delight instead of being told of the riches we receive when we give to ministries.

With the attitude of “What’s in it for me?” the gospel perishes. This is the ugly result of Word of Faith and prosperity teachings.

While studying Genesis, I found the story of Joseph truly astounding. There is so much information about how we are live our own lives by Joseph’s example that it simply cannot be contained in this short article.

Joseph was hated by his brothers. He was chosen by God. They plotted against him and threw him into a pit to die, while they ate a meal. When a caravan approached, the brothers decided to sell him to the Ishmaelites so as not to spill his blood. They took revenge on their father Jacob and deceived him by staining the coat with blood of a goat. This is of course the famed coat which belonged to Jacob’s favorite son.

Joseph must have felt led by God after receiving his two dreams. What excitement he must have experienced, anticipating his service to God, only to be sold into slavery in which he suffered for 13 years. He was a servant in Potiphar’s house, only to be accused wrongly by his master’s wife. He then was imprisoned and thrown on the floor in chains. It was not until the Pharaoh summoned Joseph because he could interpret dreams, that he was removed from prison. Later he was elevated to the highest court in Egypt. He was 30 years old at this time.

So what did Joseph do to deserve the extreme suffering that was inflicted upon him? Nothing! There is no evidence that Joseph deserved such treatment from family and foes. He walked with the Lord and was obedient to God’s will.

Search the scriptures in Genesis 39-40 for the complaints put forth by Joseph for his unjust treatment and you will find nothing. Look at his amazing qualities and actions while he suffered and you will discover a model of what constitutes a great leader of God.

Search for the ways that Joseph was trained through his suffering. He always waited on God and learned faith through his difficulties. What trust and fellowship he had. There is no way Joseph would have understood why he was being put through these hardships. Yet there was no hatred, bitterness, doubt, or worry. Joseph’s faith puts my faith to shame. No matter what situation he was in, he endured, he was faithful, and he was determined to be the best slave he could be. The Lord trained Joseph for service in this manner.

How can you look at Joseph and apply his great faith and trust in the Lord to your everyday situations? Are you grousing and complaining about your circumstances? Is the Lord testing you? Are you being prepared for a future work? Is the Lord refining you? If you have never trusted the Lord in your difficulties how can you aid your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Times of trouble can strengthen us if we call upon the name of Lord. The problem with false teachings today is that we call upon the Glory of the Lord upon us and just “soak” in ecstasy. This is a deception of the enemy. The self-elevating process seems ridiculous when looking back at Joseph and examining his faith and actions in his life while he was suffering. What we can learn from the example set forth by Joseph, is how the Lord trained him to serve others. Joseph was eventually exalted. Was he proud? Did he pump his fists in victory? Did he hold his position over his brothers? No.

There was no self-exultation in this godly leader. No self-promotion. He did not touch God’s glory. There are few leaders who can shun the pride of success and fame. This pride is so evident today.

So why do Christians suffer? As a Christian other people are watching you. What is your reaction going to be if you experience a economic downfall? A death in the family? Declining health? Will you be complaining and grumbling, or will you instead be praying for strength in the Lord to bear up under difficulty? What example are you setting for those in your family or unbelievers who are watching you?

Suffering can be a blessing. It gives the opportunity to witness of the grace of God and the hope that He gives in adversity. Are you prepared to witness to the goodness of God when your situation seems impossible? Will others see the love and joy in your heart even though your circumstances may appear glum and dreary? God has a plan that He will work out for His purposes, and we may never know in our lifetime what that purpose may be.

Paul is a prime example of many hardships. Beatings, shipwrecks, persecution, distresses, sleepless nights, imprisonment, loneliness, poverty, riots, and pain. He suffered much while preaching the cross of Jesus Christ. Yet he was not discouraged. He kept running the race. In the midst of such sorrows there was also much rejoicing.

This rejoicing and glory was balanced by Paul’s thorn in the flesh. He asked three times to have this thorn removed. But God did not remove it. He was told, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

So Paul delighted in his weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10) “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So how can we apply this to our own lives? We certainly have our share of sickness, trials and tribulations. The comfort God gives us will balance our afflictions and His grace will be sufficient. Of course, this is not what we are hearing from the pulpit. God’s grace is not enough so we are being sold the deception that healing and prosperity has been withheld from us because we lack faith. This destroys our walk with the Lord. How this cheers up Satan when we no longer rely on the sufficiency of God, and his abundance of grace. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

This lack of trust in the Word of God, stops the flow of comfort that we would give to others. (2 Corinthians 1:4)  So we should rely on the eternal glory that outweighs all suffering.

“Therefore do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18.)

Paul is saying that the eternal glory will far exceed the sufferings of this present life, since we have the resurrection to look forward to. Not all suffering will bring glory though. Faith is required. That is why we are not to fix our eyes on the unseen. When faith is not enough we allow ourselves to stray into realms of the paranormal to satisfy our lack.

Both Joseph and Paul experienced God’s comfort in their trials. But God gives a supernatural comfort, joy and peace. Is this your experience, that every trial is abounding with consolation? Are you anticipating the glory that is promised to all believers at the return of Jesus Christ? Are you willing to suffer pain for His name? Are you willing to endure persecution for the declaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

1 Peter 4:19

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

July 2008
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